Califas Legacy Project: Carmen León

Spirituality into paint

By Museo Eduardo Carrillo

Carmen León always knew she would become a painter and envisioned herself painting in Paris. The support of her family afforded her that opportunity and she did indeed become the artist she intended.

Mother We Dream (1986) by Carmen LeónMuseo Eduardo Carrillo

Her medium is acrylics which yielded opportunities to work veils of color in transparent layers to form images.

Abro Mis Alas (1992) by Carmen LeónMuseo Eduardo Carrillo

For 20 years Carmen worked in the schools, painting murals with children. As a woman it was particularly gratifying for the young girls to look up and see her high above on the scaffold along the walls. The colorful mural paint was used in an opaque manner, yielding rich results.

Califas Legacy Project: Carmen Leon (2020) by Wallace BossMuseo Eduardo Carrillo

Tonantzin (1987) by Carmen LeónMuseo Eduardo Carrillo

Tonantzin

Mama Sara, the goddess of corn and grain is the nourisher of all life to the Quechua people of Peru.

Breathe Me (1989) by Carmen LeónMuseo Eduardo Carrillo

Ancestors

The interior nature of the pandemic times has made her think of the Ancestors and her own in particular.

White Buffalo Woman (1995) by Carmen LeónMuseo Eduardo Carrillo

Her father swam across the Rio Grande and her mother was stuck in Panama because she did not have enough for passage here. Their incredible efforts to come to the US to provide opportunities to the subsequent generations continues to exert powerful influence and appreciation.

Sueño del Colibri (1998) by Carmen LeónMuseo Eduardo Carrillo

Dream of the Hummingbird

She says, “We are here to continue whatever is possible in the legacy, whatever is possible in the communicating and connecting.”

Calavera y su Novia (2001) by Carmen LeónMuseo Eduardo Carrillo

The Skeleton and His Girlfriend

The calavera, or skeleton, is present in everyday life.

The Skeleton and His Girlfriend

The calavera, or skeleton, is present in everyday life.

La Boda (2010) by Carmen LeónMuseo Eduardo Carrillo

The Wedding

At this wedding (La Boda) the inanimate comes alive, and music permeates the afterlife.

Cactus Woman (2003) by Carmen LeónMuseo Eduardo Carrillo

Cactus Woman

The female cactus figure provides a home for the spirit owl in the harsh desert environment.

Carmen León: How shamanic practice shifts perception (2020) by Wallace BossMuseo Eduardo Carrillo

Spirit Bear (2016) by Carmen LeónMuseo Eduardo Carrillo

Spirit Bear

The spirit bear guides the figures in the boat across the water.

Grand Mother Spirit (2015) by Carmen LeónMuseo Eduardo Carrillo

Grandmother Spirit

Sustaining Carmen in these times are those stories and things of beauty, music, art. Her own shamanic practice is integrally woven into her traditions.

The Question (2017) by Carmen LeónMuseo Eduardo Carrillo

The Question

She encourages the next generation and girls in particular to not lose sight and don’t lose heart from that which you dream to do.

She cautions people to try not to be distracted by all the activities of life

The Portal (2018) by Carmen LeónMuseo Eduardo Carrillo

The Portal

Keep faith but remember that we are here for such a short amount of time.

“Where we can make a difference, even if it is just incremental, personal connection that will be the critical thing in our lives, our legacy. That’s it.”.

My Letter to Lise (2020) by Carmen LeónMuseo Eduardo Carrillo

Letter to Lise

There was a time Carmen was unable to paint because of her own daughter’s terminal illness.

She used clay as a medium during that time, but now she is ready to return to painting.

Credits: Story

The Califas Legacy Project grew out of the recognition that our region represents an opportunity to fill in a missing piece of American art history. The Project features the art and ideas of our region’s Chicano/a/x and Latinx creative leaders, our elders in the movement and the next generation artists across the Monterey Bay Crescent.

Visit our website for more information about the Califas Legacy Project and full schedule of events.


The Califas Legacy Project is supported by the Arts Council of Santa Cruz County. The nine organizations participating in the Project are:


Museo Eduardo Carrillo
Monterey Museum of Art
Moving Parts Press
Santa Cruz Art League
Santa Cruz Public Libraries
Watsonville Public Library
UCSC Mary Porter Sesnon Art Gallery
UCSC Institute of Arts and Sciences

UCSC Library Special Collections & Archives

Videos by Wallace Boss.
Translation provided by Irene Rodriguez.
Photos provided by artist.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
Explore more
Google apps